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Pelicans’ play-in charge would be bolstered by sweeping season series from Grizzlies

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Ja Morant is 0-5 against New Orleans. 0-6 would be even sweeter.

New Orleans Pelicans v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Pelicans wrapped up their 2020-21 schedule against Eastern Conference teams last night with a 112-110 victory over the Hornets.

Thank goodness for small favors because New Orleans has performed better against their own conference, and for right now, winning contests is everything.

The outcomes of these four remaining games could decide play-in tournament hopes, but no matter how things unfold, we’re not done with watching the Pelicans appear in meaningful games.

At almost any point in time over the last five months, likely very few strongly believed such an occurrence possible during the final week of the regular season. Yet here we are.

Before getting comfortable about seeing the Memphis Grizzlies on tap tonight, though, realize they are a dangerous foe that’s due.

Ja Morant has never beaten New Orleans. His Grizzlies are 0-5 against the Pelicans the last two seasons. The entire city of Memphis would like nothing more than to notch that first victory at the expense of New Orleans’ postseason hopes while taking a step closer to securing the eighth seed for themselves.

New Orleans Pelicans v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Emotions will be running high, but the Pelicans have at least one advantage. For a squad that’s likely to be without both big guns again in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans are facing the Grizzlies at a time when they’re struggling.

Over their last eight games, Memphis has won three times, but victories over the Magic, Timberwolves and Raptors are to be expected for a franchise with playoff expectations. Among the defeats, lie the same Magic team and a 14-point loss to the Pistons.

The Grizzlies offense is largely to blame for their recent woes, and they’ve been struggling worse than the Pelicans with converting shots from the field and the three-point line.

In watching part of their recent matchup in Detroit, it was hard to miss Memphis’ issue with reintergrating Jaren Jackson Jr. back into the fold. The Grizzlies lacked rhythm with him on the court and he looked too eager to make up for lost shots on the season.

The best bet for New Orleans is to add to that chaotic environment. If they bring the same level of effort witnessed against the 76ers and Hornets, the Pelicans could rattle the Grizzlies into more than their usual amount of misses and mistakes.

In addition, just as in last night’s victory, unlikely solid offensive performances will probably be required. Jaxson Hayes, Eric Bledsoe, James Johnson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker were key against the Hornets. Who will Monday evening’s heroes be?

Today is an important day for the New Orleans Pelicans. If they manage to find a way to snare the victory in Memphis and the reeling Spurs lose to the Bucks in Milwaukee, only a game will separate the two division rivals in the loss column battling for the 10th seed. And then we’ll have another very meaningful game to look forward to in two days time.

That’s what it’s all about for a young but growing team eager to take that next step.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (31-37) at Memphis Grizzlies (34-33)

When: May 10, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.